Thursday, April 30, 2009

Happy May Day/Bealtaine!

In somer when the shawes be sheyne,
And leves be large and long,
Hit is full merry in feyre foreste
To here the foulys song.

To see the dere draw to the dale
And leve the hilles hee,
And shadow him in the leves grene
Under the green-wode tree.

Hit befell on Whitsontide
Early in a May mornyng,
The Sonne up faire can shyne,
And the briddis mery can syng

~ May in the green wode

We hope that you all have a fantastic Bealtaine, May Day, or Walpurgisnacht! We leave you with some podcast suggestions and some more Morris Dancer videos (this time Border Morris!):

Druidcast Music Special (May 2008)

Celtic Myth Podshow Bealtaine 2008

Bridgetown Border Morris Men


Aymi & Laurel

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bealtaine/May Day

A Bealtaine shin-dig, photo from piglicker

The month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth
to blossom, and to bring forth fruit; for like as herbs and trees
bring forth fruit and flourish in May, in likewise every lusty heart
that is in any manner a lover, springeth and flourisheth in lusty
deeds. For it giveth unto all lovers courage,
that lusty month of May.

~ from Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory

Well, I can finally say that Spring is here! Of course, this was 'officially' the case over a month ago, but the weather is now at last complying!

In a couple of days it will be May 1st, which to many is known as May Day, and for many Pagans as well as Gaelic folks it's Bealtaine, and for Heathens it is Walpurgisnacht.

Bealtaine has its roots as a Gaelic festival that was celebrated in ancient Ireland, Scotland, as well as the Isle of Man. Many believe that it was the time that marked the light half of the year, while Samhain was the start of the dark half.

There were various rites that surrounded Bealtaine, to celebrate the coming of summer; to ensure the fertility of crops and livestock, as well as encourage the overall prosperity of the community. Many of these rites involved fire.

According to Sir James George Frazer in The Golden Bough, Bealtaine was the highest holiday of the Druids, and sometimes human sacrifices would be held on this day.

He speaks of a long tradition in the Scottish Highlands (which were still happening in his time), where bonfires were lit on Bealtaine on the top of hills. He also states that folks would put out all fires the night before on May Eve (April 30th), and all hearths would be re-lit from the sacred need fire on Bealtaine.

Bealtaine bonfire photo from M J Roberts

In Ireland fires were lit for cattle to go around (or through) for blessings, as well as people in the community. After the influence of Christianity, it was bad luck for the need fire to go out on Bealtaine, and the fire could only be re-lit from the a priest's hearth. The ashes from the need fire were sprinkled over the threshold of the homes in a community as a blessing (Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland by Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde).

Today many Pagans and secular Bealtaine festivals still involve bonfires.

Sacred wells also played a pretty important role in some areas. The online text Land, Sea and Sky (a Celtic Reconstructionist text) claims that the first water taken from a well or spring after sunrise on Bealtaine morning had curative and protective qualities, and the water from sacred wells and springs were most effective at this time.

In The Origins of Popular Superstitions and Customs by T. Sharper Knowlson, he describes a ritual done on the first of May at a sacred well near Tullie Bealtaine in Scotland:

On Beltane morning superstitious people go to this well and drink of it; then they make a procession round it nine times; after this they in like manner go round the temple. So deep-rooted is this heathenish superstition in the minds of many who reckon themselves good Protestants, that they will not neglect these rites even when Beltane falls on a Sabbath (a Christian holy day).

In the same region of Scotland (Perthshire) children were submerged into the Lady of Lawers Well on Bealtaine under the light of the sun, to benefit from the supposed remedial powers of the Creideag Bheg and Creideag Mhór springs. (Survivals in Belief Among the Celts by George Henderson).

Close up of a maypole, photo from ComeIlMare

One of the most popular customs associated with the first of May is dancing around the phallic maypole.The maypole's origins probably hark back to a more ancient time, but from what I understand, the earlies record comes from around the 16th century. It is originally a Germanic custom that later spread to other areas like England, Wales, the Scottish Lowlands, and eventually North America.

Another common sight at many May Day celebrations are Morris Dancers, especially in England, Wales, and North America. Here is a nifty little video of a Morris side on Bealtaine (although I am personally more fond of Border Morris myself):

And another for good measure!

There are tonnes of fantastic lore and superstitions surrounding Bealtaine, much of which can be found in nursery rhymes, such as Mother Goose:

The fair maid who, the first of May
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be.

Besides collecting the makings of a 'beauty potion', the Hawthorn blossoms were worn by folks celebrating May Day to represent fertility and new growth, and cuttings were hung in houses to bring prosperity and protection.

Another tree that was used at this time of year was the Rowan; in places like the Isle of Man, Scotland, and Wales, Rowan branches were hung in barns and homes to protect people and livestock against the curses of witches.

In Ireland, Marsh Marigold was made into wreaths and garlands to hang in houses, and decorated cattle to keep Faeries at bay, and was also used in divination.

In Germany a May wine is made from Sweet Woodruff (see recipe below), and was thought to bestow fertility and luck to the drinker. It can also be worn in a Bealtaine ritual or to decorate a Bealtaine altar. And if you want to attract Faeries, give the Common Bluebell a try.

Hawthorn blossoms, photo from Billpowellisalive

Many thought that Bealtaine was a time when Faeries would 'wreck havoc' on the country side, and there are still folks in Ireland who would say you're nuts if you go outside on May Eve!

It's definitely a good day to collect plants to make protective amulets and for healing, as well doing prosperity magic and divination. Many people also like to get married and handfasted on Bealtaine.

I know one thing that I will be doing this year is blessing the farm.

Here is a blessing from a book that is a staple influence for my practice (sans the Christian tone):

The Bealtaine Blessing

Bless O Threefold true and bountiful,
Myself, my spouse, and my children,
My tender children and their beloved mother at their head.
Everything within my dwelling or in my possession,
All kine and crops, all flocks and corn,
From Hallow Eve to Beltane Eve,
With goodly progress and gentle blessing,
From sea to sea, and every river mouth,
From wave to wave, and base of waterfall.
Be the Three Persons taking possession of all to me belonging,
Be the sure Trinity protecting me in truth;
Oh! satisfy my soul in the words of Paul,
And shield my loved ones beneath the wing of Thy glory,
Shield my loved ones beneath the wing of Thy glory.
Bless everything and every one,
Of this little household by my side;
Place the cross of Christ on us with the power of love,
Till we see the land of joy,
Till we see the land of joy,
What time the kine shall forsake the stalls,
What time the sheep shall forsake the folds,
What time the goats shall ascend to the mount of mist,
May the tending of the Triune follow them,
May the tending of the Triune follow them.
Thou Being who didst create me at the beginning,
Listen and attend me as I bend the knee to Thee,
Morning and evening as is becoming in me,
In Thine own presence, O God of life,
In Thine own presence, O God of life.

~ Carmina Gadelica by Alexander Carmicheal

If you are thinking of setting up a Bealtaine altar, some plants that would be appropriate to decorate it with (besides the ones already mentioned) are Apple blossoms, Ivy, Lilacs, Pussywillows, Gorse, Dandelions, and Honeysuckle.

Other things that you might want to try are colourful ribbons, freshly sheered sheep's wool, a handmade nest, candles (especially green, pink, purple, white, and yellow), things that you would use in your garden (seeds, seedlings, a hand tool, or a pretty pot), and crystals (Moss Agate, Amber, Rose Quartz, Emerald and Carnelian would all be suitable).

Here are some photos for inspiration ;)

Photo from Sighthound

Photo from malpagaia

Photo from Sinjy

Photo from kightp

Photo from cronewynd

Photo from mindi64

Photo from aspenfnord

And lastly, here are a few recipes for your Bealtaine/May Day feast!

Maiwein (German May Day Wine)
Beltane Bannocks
Fertility Bread (!!!)
Candied Flowers
Wild Irish Nettle Soup
Sand Tarts
Pork Tenderloin with Potatoes and Apples
Cream Pie and Marigold Custard
Fruit Cream Tarts
Fried Mustard Greens
Capon in Honey and Milk



Monday, April 27, 2009

Words of Wisdom: Why Not?

A plant of 'sage' advice. Photo from Echter Salbei

It's always great to start off the week with a nugget or two of wisdom, and when I found this over at the Animá blog I thought this was most fitting.

So grab a cup of coffee or tea, and curl up for some good words!



Why Not?

by Jesse Wolf Hardin


When I was a young kid in military school, a wise teacher told me the most important question to ask in life was “Why?” His wise-guy student, however, insisted the real question of relevance was “Why not?” For example, why not let me take more electives? Or work ten hour days in order to have an extra day out of school? Why not let me make my own decisions, and then both deserve the rewards and pay the price for my actions? Why not give Sergeant stripes for initiative instead of awarding them for for silent obedience? Or give myself to a series of exciting adventures like my heroes in the books?

Some things never change. For example, I don’t need to ask why the banking system collapsed or why failed bankers give themselves millions of dollars in bonuses, nor do do I wonder why both political parties allowed them to run away with our hard earned tax dollars just like I predicted months ago. I and millions of others already know why this country is going to hell in a hand-basket, why most people care only about their credit card limits and WallyWorld shopping baskets, why nature suffers even at the hands of administrations with the best of intentions, and why even free-thinking citizens have been taught to believe that they’re insignificant and powerless.

More pertinent (or temperamentally impertinent) is “Why not”… as in why not grab the executives of disgraced conglomerate AIG, strip them of every ill gotten and ill deserved dollar, vacation house, racing horse and yacht, strip them down to a basic working person’s wardrobe and a single 1980’s Chevy family car? Why not let the poorly managed banks go bankrupt, and then see what takes their place? Why not develop locally based banks that loan only to – and invest only in – the local community and its needs? Why not purchase houses directly from the owners, with them carrying the loan? And why not get the heck away from credit for anything smaller than purchase of land, a business or home? Why not live on what we can really produce, spend only what we have, spend only our money instead of the money of our children’s children’s children? Raise gardens, wildcraft and barter?

Why not put the stress on local production, instead of worldwide markets? Export only finished goods instead of raw resources? Make decisions locally, for the good of the region? Why not build things to last, instead of making tons of crappy things that don’t? Why not be your own boss, believe in yourself, act to make your hopes a reality, buck convention to be your real self, risk income and credibility by fulfilling a crazy lifelong dream? Why not see getting fired as an opportunity to move to the country, or to get out of that townhouse and move into a cheap 20 foot fishing boat? Why not start creating a world different from the one being crammed down our throats, instead of remaining “victims” lost in a flurry of deadlines and narcotic cloud of banal television shows? Why not cleave to the “old ways” and values of the distant past, when what’s modern is often of no value and what’s new should be questioned?

Why not honor and defend the essential liberties and rights as spelled out in the Constitution, regardless of popular whimsical opinion, regardless of legislation and repression? Why not attempt the impossible, fight for what’s right, and stand up against all that isn’t? Speak the truth even if it’s problematic, goes against the grain of our standard-cut populace, or gets us into trouble? Why not voice our amazement, umbrage and outrage, to neighbors that need to hear it, so called “leaders” who don’t want to hear it, on pirate radio waves and in the columns of newspapers struggling to make it? Why not plant our urban yards with native plants, encourage flower boxes on every stretch of concrete, or even start tearing some of the suffocating concrete up? Put the earth first, and see ourselves as integral flesh and blood of that earth? What about standing-out for a change, instead of always fitting into some slot, or buying what we really want and need instead of what’s considered trendy and hot?

To quote country-western singer Dwight Yoakum in a line of one his hits, “Why, Baby, why not?”

(copy or forward this as you please…)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Roasted Root Veggies & Maple Syrup

We're still in root-eating season here in the North, and after a whole winter of them, it can get a tad bit boring. However, we are also at the tail-end of maple syrup season, and my friend came to the rescue with a gift of a bottle of luverly maple syrup from her sugar bush!

Here's a recipe that other Northern locavores might want to give a try.

Roasted Veggies & Maple Syrup
3 Russet Potatoes
2 Large Carrots
2 Large Parsnips
1/2 a Rutabaga
4 Shallots
Olive Oil (as much as needed)
3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
Dried Mint (to taste)
Dried Sage (to taste)
Freshly-ground Pepper (to taste)

Roast in the oven at 350 for about one hour.

It's great with a couple of scrambled eggs and mint tea!



Doctor Cloning Humans

Fertility doctor on brink of cloning human: report
via Yahoo! News

A US-based fertility doctor claimed to have cloned 14 human embryos and transferred 11 of them into the wombs of four women in an interview published on Wednesday.

Panayiotis Zavos told Britain's Independent newspaper that although none of the women had had a viable pregnancy as a result, the first cloned baby could now be born within a couple of years.

"There is absolutely no doubt about it... the cloned child is coming. There is absolutely no way that it will not happen," he said, quoted by the paper.

Read the rest of the article here.

Oh goody. Let's hope that the humans who become 'gods among men' are ethically sound enough to wield this technology. Somehow I doubt that will be the case.



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Luverly of the Week: The Council of Cernunnos by Emily Balivet

This is a fantastic painting, I love it! Here are a couple of more shots of it.

Definitely puts one in the mood for Bealtaine! ;)



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sharing Backyards

(The video might take a minute to load but it will play!)

I found this video via the City Farmer Blog

Looking for a yard to plant in or do you have a yard and want to lend out some gardening space to others? Check out this awesome webby!

Sharing Backyards.



Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day everyone! Get out there and twitterpait!


Aymi & Laurel

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Near North Locavores Blog

Just a little announcement to let our readers know that the Near North Locavores have a new blog that we have just started today.

This is the organization that I belong to that is doing a partnership to start up a community garden this year. If you are in Northern Ontario be sure to check us out!



Just in Time for Earth Day: the Largest Pesticide Ban in North America

If I were to have a lawn, I would want one like this!! Photo from RTPeat

Starting tomorrow (which is of course Earth Day) the Ontario government will be implementing the largest ban for cosmetic pesticide use in North America.

Here is a blurb about it from the Ontario government website:

Ontario’s lawns, gardens, school yards and parks will be a lot healthier beginning Earth Day, April 22, 2009. That’s the day the province’s cosmetic pesticides ban takes effect.

The McGuinty government believes the use of pesticides to control pesky weeds and insects for purely cosmetic reasons is an unnecessary risk to our families and pets, especially when you can have a healthier lawn and garden without chemicals.

We have listened to medical experts – like the Canadian Cancer Society – who have made a convincing case for reducing our exposure to pesticides, particularly children who are generally more susceptible to the potential toxic effects of pesticides.

The ban is part of the McGuinty government’s commitment to protect families, especially children from pollution and toxic chemicals through tough new environmental laws.

The provincial ban overrides municipal pesticide bylaws, protecting all Ontarians, not just those in some communities. It also establishes one clear set of rules, which makes it easier for Ontario businesses to follow.

To find out more about the details you can check here and here.

To me this is fantastic, and it is a step in the right direction. We can certainly do more. Next I would love to see the stupid obsession of 'manicured' lawns and see more veggie beds and lawns like this:

Another photo from RTPeat

There are some corporations who are not happy about it, like these folks. Oh well!



Sunday, April 19, 2009

Guilty Pleasures: The Yip Yips

Confession: The Yip Yips make me laugh so hard I could almost pee my pants. This however was not always the case...they used to terrify me as a kid. I think that I may have even cried the first time watching them on Sesame Street.

Anyhoo, in the spirit of shits and giggles, here are a couple of clips. Enjoy!



Friday, April 17, 2009

Luverly of the Week: Fiddleheads {Ostrich Fern}

Ostrich Fern {Matteuccia struthiopteris} fiddleheads are a super yummy wild food that folks in my area will be able to forage for soon. Before going out there to forage for your own, here are some great articles with important tips to check out:

Locavore to the Max (fiddleheads are at the bottom of the first page)

Be Aware: Fiddlehead (Ostrich Fern) Toxicity (this tells you how to properly prepare them)

Here are some more fiddlehead luverlies:

Photo from Miika Silfverberg

Photo from mio-spr

And lastly, here are links to some fiddlehead recipes:

Unique fiddlehead recipes

More yummy fiddlehead recipes



Teas for Hay Fever

Chamomile tea from Greg
The time of allergies is almost upon us in the North! I have a couple of friends already suffering from the sneezing and the itchy eyes, which can take away some of the pleasure of enjoying the warmer weather (even after such a long Winter!).

Here is another fantastic article written by my friend Rebecca Mullins that was originally published in Alive and Fit. You can see another article of hers that I posted called Immune System Boosters here.

Hay Fever Ounce of Prevention by Rebecca Mullins

While most people enjoy the spring and summer sunshine, for those who suffer with hay fever, these season can be difficult. Allergies can cause a great deal of discomfort. You can find relief from the symptoms of have fever and other allergies through herbal teas. It is best to use herbal remedies as a preventative measure leading up to spring and summer, rather than only treating the symptoms as they appear.

Chamomile Tea

This can be used to reduce the duration of hay fever attacks. It is rich in anti-inflammatory agents and is gentle enough for children to use. Another way to make use of it is by making a simple eye compress. A natural alternative to over-the-counter eye drops is a chamomile tea compress.

Chamomile Tea Compress:

Make a cup of chamomile tea and allow it to cool. Soak a wad of cotton material in the tea. Gently place over the eyes for 5 to 10 minutes. This can be safely used three or more times per day. Always use a fresh compress for each eye to avoid infection. This homemade remedy should not be kept for more than a day, since it has no natural preservatives and may introduce bacteria to the eye.

Eyebright Tea

It sooths itchy eyes associated with hay fever, and is also known for its ability to relieve nasal congestion. It is an astringent that dries secretions and calms inflammation of the mucous membranes of the head, throat and upper respiratory tract. It also has the ability to constrict conjunctival and nasal blood vessels when the are in a reactive state. Two to three cups per day is recommended. It is odorless and has a bitter, salty taste.

Licorice Root Tea

This should be taken daily for a month or so before and then also during the hay fever season for the best results. There are substances in this herb, which have the ability to stimulate the adrenals to produce more cortisol, a hormone that decreases inflammation. For those who want a more natural remedy without ill side effects, this is slower and more gentle on the body, which makes it a good replacement for corticosteroid drugs. However, consumption should be stopped for one month out of every four so that cortisol levels don't become too high.

In susceptible people, licorice root tea can raise blood pressure or lower potassium levels; therefore, it is best to check with your health-care provider before consuming licorice root tea, It is recommended that you consume no more than three cups a day. Be sure to look for organic licorice root tea its natural for, which can be purchased from your health food store.

Nettle Tea

Made from fresh stinging nettles, it contains chlorophyll and formic acid, which strengthen the immune system in preparation for the hay fever season. It is also effective in reducing hay fever because it acts as an expectorant and also reduces sinus inflammation. It also acts as an effective antihistamine and an astringent to reduce itchy eyes and sneezing. Nettles are known as one of the great botanical blood cleanser, aiding the body in ridding itself of accumulated toxins, and contain many healthy minerals for our overall health. You can take several cups of strong nettle tea daily--mix with peppermint leaf to improve the taste, which is strong, grassy, and earthy.

Rebecca Mullins RHN can be reached at



Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Little Tour of Our Part of the Farm

Yesterday I stopped by the farm to scope things out. Last year in the early fall I measured out the land, but I find it is so much easier to get a vision of things once the snow has melted, but before things start growing.

We are starting off small this year, and we are going to be working the land from a Permaculture approach. So we will definitely be leaving many parts alone, or adding more native plants.

In these two photos this is the main area we will be working with. Pictured in here are fruit trees, raspberry bushes, as well as clumps of sleeping wild plants and a mixture of birches, maples, and other trees. You can also kind of see the pond which will be our water source (it is fed through an irrigation system, and we will also be using rainwater collection).

For these two photos I was standing on an 'escarpment', facing the west-southwest. On the 'escarpment' there are tonnes of wild blueberries, other shrubs, alpines, and moss like this:

Towards the north in there is a little wood with two little water holes, and they need some cleaning. This could be an excellent opportunity to create some type of living machine, because they have been polluted by some assholes dumping garbage illegally, and the water is certainly not happy.

Here are some of the waterholes and the dump. Gah.

We are lucky enough to have an aquatic biologist on board, so he will be able to test the water for us, and we can figure out what to do. We would love to see native plants in here that like to put native aquatic plants in here, as well as some around the edge. And put some in the rest of the woodland area.

Here are some more photos of that area:

Here are a couple of photos facing the east and northeast (towards the 'escarpment'):

Not pictured towards the west and southwest there is about 4 more acres that we might work with next year, and then there is the already cultivated area that is being kept up by the current farmers.

More to come!



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An Article About Our North Bay Garden Project

Locavores to grow produce for not-for-profit organization

From the North Bay Nugget

Zel Artan has big plans for the 1.2-hectare patch of land her parents have been growing vegetables on for the past 20 years.

The Artans are turning some of the weeding and watering over to the public this summer, opening up 464 square metres of garden to members of the Near North Locavores, who plan to grow produce and donate it to a local not-for-profit organization.

For many years, Artan’s Turkish-Canadian parents have lived off the produce grown from their garden near the Laurier Woods.

Excess produce is sold to the community at the North Bay Downtown Farmers’ Market each Saturday in the summer or preserved for the winter.

But as time wears on, maintaining the large garden has become difficult for the couple.

Last summer, Artan, who splits her time between Toronto and North Bay, picked up the shovel and continued in her parents’ footsteps working the garden with the help of friends.

“I got involved with it last year and fell in love. It’s like a vegetable Sweetman’s Garden,” she said of the lot on McIntyre Street West that has offered a floral oasis for visitors for many years.

This summer, some members of the Near North Locavores plan to revitalize an overgrown part of the Artans’ garden, growing fresh organic produce that will be donated to a not-for-profit organization yet to be determined.

The area will also be used to demonstrate how people can grow some of their own food.

Next summer, the group hopes to establish community allotments, allowing people to grow their own vegetables.

Laurel Ronan, a core member of the Locavores, said they are excited to be able to use the land and expand an already beautiful garden.

Opening the garden to the public is just the starting point for Artan. She has many campaigns and challenges planned for the city.

The Seed to Feed Earth Week challenge kicks off Wednesday, with a goal of raising awareness of the importance of collecting and keeping seeds year after year.

“Planting vegetables is one thing,” she said. “It’s about making people aware of protecting the heirloom seed varieties.”

Along with the campaign, her personal goal is to educate herself and her family on being self-sufficient, starting with feeding her family at least one meal a day from food they produced.

She hopes other families in the city will take up the challenge as well.

“My kids understand that organic produce tastes better and is better for you,” she said.

She also hopes to pass on gardening skills to a younger generation through a children’s day camp this summer.

The long-term goal is to make the garden an educational facility, and Artan hopes government grants will allow them to add a horticultural ecology centre.

There is also a documentary planned on the garden, and she hopes the interest will garner them a television show.

In the meantime, volunteers will start turning the earth later this week, preparing the garden for planting and building a water-retention system to collect rain water for the garden.

“I think North Bay needs this,” Artan said.

And here are some photos from the farm last year:

More to come!



Monday, April 13, 2009

Straight Out of a Fairy Tale: The Gypsy Vanner Horse

E-card of Finnvara of Toadstool Farm

The Gypsy Vanner Horse (also called Gypsy or Irish Cob, and sometimes 'Tinker' Horse), was originally bred by Romani people to pull the vardos. From what I understand, the Vanner was bred by Romanis who were situated in England and Ireland.

These folks needed a very special type of horse to meet many different requirements; the horse must be hardy and an easy keeper, strong enough to pull their wagons over sometimes great distances, and they needed to be gentle and agreeable enough for the young ones to be around.

A Vardo. Photo from Sunset through the clouds

The ancestors of the modern Gypsy Vanner are a combined breeding of Friesian, Clydesdale, Shire, Dales Pony, and maybe the Dartmoor Pony and Exmoor Pony as well. All breeds which are noted for hardiness and strength, sure-footedness, and most for their docile personalities. Oh, and of course like the Vanner, all very beautiful!

The Gypsy Vanner did not become a recognized breed until the late 20th century, and since then many different registries and preservation societies have emerged. The first registered Vanners touched American soil in 1996, and have been gaining popularity in North America thanks to folks like breeders Cindy and Dennis Thompson.

Originally posted as a Luverly of the Week. Photo from Sweetyseb

The Vanner can come in a variety of heights as there are no set standards, but there are generally three classifications with in registries. For horses under 14 hh (hands), they are known as 'mini', horses that are 14 to 15.2 hh are 'classic', and for those above 15.2 hh are called 'grand'. There are also no set standards for colour, although many are a beautiful piebald or skewbald.

One characteristic that Gypsy Vanners are most known for is all their hair! They have lush manes, forelocks, tales, and wonderful horse-feathers, all of which add to their 'fairy tale' appearance.

The overall body structure is powerful, heavy, and compact with dense bone. The back is short, the shoulders deep, the chest broad, the hindquarters smooth and rounded, the legs straight and clean, the neck slightly arched, and every part is well muscled.

Peaking from under all that hair they have large eyes, neat little ears, a broad forehead, and a square-ish muzzle. And besides their good looks, they have a personality to match: they are kind and sweet-natured, very intelligent, cooperative, and laid back.

Photo from CottonEyeJoe

Today the Gypsy Vanner is a multi-discipline breed, and is used in shows for dressage, hunter, jumper, and sometime Western classes. For homesteaders, this is a breed that I would recommend as much as I would the Canadian Horse (click to see previous post on this breed) if you are looking to work with a smaller breed.

They would be excellent for in the field, to haul loads, and for transportation either by horse-back or in a cart/wagon.



Photo from Annalisa Parisi